Air ambulance flying into a new era

Scottish Health Minister Shona Robison MSP pictured with from left, Paramedic Chris Darlington, John Bullough Chairman SCAA and Paramedic John Salmond.
Scottish Health Minister Shona Robison MSP pictured with from left, Paramedic Chris Darlington, John Bullough Chairman SCAA and Paramedic John Salmond.

Communities in Galloway are set to benefit from enhanced air ambulance coverage as the country’s only charity-funded service unveils its new life-saving helicopter.

After two years of nationwide operations, Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) has upgraded to a larger, faster and more powerful EC135 T2i.

Its arrival heralds the retiral of the last Bolkow 105 air ambulance in the UK which originally launched SCAA’s service in 2013 and has deployed to emergencies in Dumfries & Galloway and The Borders on many occasions.

The new EC135 is expected to be fully operational at SCAA within the next two weeks with crew training now in its final stages.

Scotland’s Health Minister Shona Robison MSP officially marked this major new phase in the charity’s development when she attended a reception at SCAA’s Perth Airport base on Friday.

Commenting on the work of the charity, Ms Robison said: “Within little more than two years Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance has become an integral part of our vital emergency services, responding to over 850 call outs from the Highlands and Islands to the Borders and providing an invaluable service to the people of Scotland. I congratulate SCAA on their outstanding achievements to date and in upgrading their aircraft which will allow them to provide a more enhanced life-saving service to the people of Scotland.

“This new helicopter will mean that the Charity Air Ambulance can now fly further and faster than ever before. This will help the air ambulance provide an even better service to the people of Scotland who will need it most.”

The helicopter upgrade was made possible by a £3.3 million allocation from LIBOR funds announced earlier this year.

SCAA Chairman John Bullough said the funding had provided an invaluable springboard for the latest phase in the charity’s development.

“There is no doubt that this unique service in Scotland has saved many lives and SCAA’s work is impacting on the lives of thousands of people right across the country - either directly with patients or indirectly with relatives, friends and colleagues.

“There are few parts of Scotland that are untouched by the work of our helicopter and highly professional crew and we have been pleased to be able to support communities everywhere.”

“To date all this has been achieved with our distinctive Bolkow 105 aircraft - an elderly, yet dependable airframe widely used as an entry-level air ambulance helicopter. This has proved an invaluable workhorse during our first two years and it will be a very poignant moment indeed when she is finally retired. However, the LIBOR funding has enabled us to upgrade to a more modern, spacious, powerful and all-round more capable aircraft.”

The newly acquired EC135 - the most widely used helicopter type in air ambulance service worldwide will increase our speed, range, endurance and payload, allow SCAA to fly at night and in cloud, offer a larger cabin which would allow a family member or a physician to fly with the patient, allow better access to the patient in flight and allow SCAA if required to carry a maternity seat and an incubator

“We believe that the cumulative effect of these and other improvements could increase our capability by up to 50%, which is potentially 50% more lives saved,” said Mr Bullough. “This is great for SCAA but even better for Scotland.”

SCAA is supported solely by the public, trusts, companies and foundations, who raise the required funds to keep the popular charity in the air. While the specified LIBOR allocation will fund the aircraft upgrade element, SCAA will continue to fundraise to meet the overall increased running costs of operating the new aircraft.

Mr Bullough added: “The people of Scotland have been amazing in their fundraising efforts to ensure SCAA stays in the air for the benefit of everyone.”